When charity isn't about charity

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 1, 2013, 10:57 PM | comments: 0

I've been fortunate that my career choices have put me in a place that I can make significant contributions to charitable causes. I've always tried to give something to various causes since college, and in more recent years, try to give more time and expertise in any capacity that I can. In 2009 I started to help Give Kids The World by helping to start up a new event that has grown bigger to the extent that my role is just to promote it in every way I can. I've worked with Cedar Point to do a couple of smaller things, too. It's easily the most gratifying thing I do outside of being a dad and husband.

I think my motivation is probably rooted in one of the few things that stuck with me from childhood in my church, that you should help other people out because you would want them to do the same for you. I feel even more strongly about it in the strange political culture where people paint every social program as bad and have moved on to paint large charities in a negative light. We need to take care of each other. I think those in the best position to do so have a moral obligation even.

My favorite causes range from cancer charities to local Red Cross chapters, and of course GKTW. As I've written previously, my visit to the village had a profound effect on me, and having a child during the years I've supported the organization has certainly reinforced my commitment to fundraising for them.

The strange thing that I've observed in various fundraising efforts, however, is that sometimes it ceases to be about the fundraising. Sometimes, people make the events about themselves instead of the cause they're working for. I remember first seeing this in college, where we were doing a United Way thing, and two campus organizations were at war about who was leading the effort and should headline the publicity. I was embarrassed to even be involved at that point.

I've seen similar weirdness with the amusement park stuff I've been involved with. Years ago there was an auction for "first" rides on something, and an all out war broke out in one of my forums about who "deserved" to be on that ride. It's like the whole point of the fundraiser became secondary to the strange entitlements people had for participating. Similar conflicts have come up in the forums over the more recent events, sometimes over the perks or prizes. I can't wrap my head around that when you did something good for a great cause, and probably got some free food and coaster rides out of it, too.

I suppose if you're any of those organizations, you just scratch your head and accept the donations, but it doesn't make it any less weird. I think the thing that bothers me is that fundraising for any organization also has a secondary but equally important benefit: Awareness. When you solicit donations or participate in an event, you're also spreading the word about the cause, which in turn likely leads to more donations. Making it about you distracts people from the awareness.

In any case, we're doing what I suspect will be an awesome event next month. It won't generate a ton of cash, but it will get people psyched up for the big one in the summer, for sure, and most importantly, get GKTW on more minds.


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